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Asymmetry
Cover of Asymmetry
Asymmetry
A Novel
A TIME and NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BOOK of the YEAR * New York Times Notable Book and Times Critic's Top Book of 2018

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2018 BY * Elle * Bustle * Kirkus Reviews * Lit Hub* NPR * O, The Oprah Magazine * Shelf Awareness

The bestselling and critically acclaimed debut novel by Lisa Halliday, hailed as "extraordinary" by The New York Times, "a brilliant and complex examination of power dynamics in love and war" by The Wall Street Journal, and "a literary phenomenon" by The New Yorker.
Told in three distinct and uniquely compelling sections, Asymmetry explores the imbalances that spark and sustain many of our most dramatic human relations: inequities in age, power, talent, wealth, fame, geography, and justice. The first section, "Folly," tells the story of Alice, a young American editor, and her relationship with the famous and much older writer Ezra Blazer. A tender and exquisite account of an unexpected romance that takes place in New York during the early years of the Iraq War, "Folly" also suggests an aspiring novelist's coming-of-age. By contrast, "Madness" is narrated by Amar, an Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained by immigration officers and spends the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in Heathrow. These two seemingly disparate stories gain resonance as their perspectives interact and overlap, with yet new implications for their relationship revealed in an unexpected coda.

A stunning debut from a rising literary star, Asymmetry is "a transgressive roman a clef, a novel of ideas, and a politically engaged work of metafiction" (The New York Times Book Review), and a "masterpiece" in the original sense of the word" (The Atlantic). Lisa Halliday's novel will captivate any reader with while also posing arresting questions about the very nature of fiction itself.
A TIME and NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BOOK of the YEAR * New York Times Notable Book and Times Critic's Top Book of 2018

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2018 BY * Elle * Bustle * Kirkus Reviews * Lit Hub* NPR * O, The Oprah Magazine * Shelf Awareness

The bestselling and critically acclaimed debut novel by Lisa Halliday, hailed as "extraordinary" by The New York Times, "a brilliant and complex examination of power dynamics in love and war" by The Wall Street Journal, and "a literary phenomenon" by The New Yorker.
Told in three distinct and uniquely compelling sections, Asymmetry explores the imbalances that spark and sustain many of our most dramatic human relations: inequities in age, power, talent, wealth, fame, geography, and justice. The first section, "Folly," tells the story of Alice, a young American editor, and her relationship with the famous and much older writer Ezra Blazer. A tender and exquisite account of an unexpected romance that takes place in New York during the early years of the Iraq War, "Folly" also suggests an aspiring novelist's coming-of-age. By contrast, "Madness" is narrated by Amar, an Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained by immigration officers and spends the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in Heathrow. These two seemingly disparate stories gain resonance as their perspectives interact and overlap, with yet new implications for their relationship revealed in an unexpected coda.

A stunning debut from a rising literary star, Asymmetry is "a transgressive roman a clef, a novel of ideas, and a politically engaged work of metafiction" (The New York Times Book Review), and a "masterpiece" in the original sense of the word" (The Atlantic). Lisa Halliday's novel will captivate any reader with while also posing arresting questions about the very nature of fiction itself.
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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Lisa Halliday grew up in Medfield, Massachusetts and currently lives in Milan, Italy. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review and she is the recipient of a 2017 Whiting Award for Fiction. Asymmetry is her first novel.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    Starred review from December 15, 2017
    Two seemingly unrelated novellas form one delicately joined whole in this observant debut.Halliday writes first, in Folly, of Alice, an editor in New York during the second Bush presidency, and her relationship with Ezra, a well-known and much older author. Alice struggles to establish her own identity at a time when Ezra's health concerns focus his attention on mortality. Through their occupations and their relationship, the lovers examine the nature of story. "Who knows if it's any good," Ezra says of his manuscript at one point. "It's a funny business, this. Making things up. Describing things." Alice's roles as both a literary gatekeeper and a much younger companion are an important, related dichotomy. Art is omnipresent; music and baseball, too, become the rhythm that runs beneath the melody of the couple's interaction. Alice wants to write about herself, but she "doesn't seem important enough." The lovers' age difference adds gravity to their relationship and the stories they each tell. The second part of the book, Madness, initially appears to be wholly unrelated to the first: Amar, an Iraqi-American economist, is detained at Heathrow on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan in 2008. Halliday hints at her strategy, though: "Death is the dark backing a mirror needs if we are to see anything," says Amar as he's detained, quoting Bellow. Amar's story is darker, filled with grief, and alternates between flashbacks and the present day. Though nothing is obvious about the connection of Amar's story to Alice's, the author gently highlights notes from the first story, and the juxtaposition of the two tales is further complicated--and illuminated--by the addition of a third and final section that brings them together.A singularly conceived graft of one narrative upon another; what grows out of these conjoined stories is a beautiful reflection of life and art.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 29, 2018
    Halliday, recipient of a 2017 Whiting Award, crafts a stellar and inventive debut, a puzzle of seemingly incongruous pieces that, in the end, fit together perfectly. In the early aughts, young NYC book editor Alice embarks on an affair with Ezra, a surprisingly kind older novelist. As the American military conflict in Iraq escalates, Alice and Ezra flit into and out of each other lives, bonding over the Red Sox, Scrabble, and Ezra’s failure to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. After a health scare lands Ezra in the hospital, Alice must decide the future of their relationship. The second, decidedly different section follows Amar, an Iraqi-American of complicated provenance who has been detained at Heathrow Airport on his way to Iraq. Alternating between the customs official’s curt interrogation of Amar and flashbacks to his life in America, the sequence draws the background violence of the earlier section violently into the foreground without sacrificing any of the former’s momentum or humor. A singular collision of forms, tones, and arguments, the novel provides frequent delights and never explains too much. Any reader who values innovative fiction should treasure this. Agent: Chris Parris-Lamb, Gernert Company.

  • Library Journal

    February 1, 2018

    In the first of two stories making up this debut novel, a young woman named Alice becomes involved with a famous, much older, literary prize-winning author. As their relationship deepens, the questions relevant to a seasoned man of the world in later life contrast with those of his naive, inexperienced paramour. The second story concerns Iraqi American Amar, who is detained at Heathrow while traveling to see his brother in Kurdistan via London and eventually denied entry to the UK. During his 36 hours in detention, he recalls his childhood and why he chose to be American while his brother chose to be Iraqi. The story ends abruptly in disaster, and the book circles back to Ezra years after his affair with Alice, the single thread connecting the two equally well-told stories. While the first story may have readers wondering about the characters' motivations (does Ezra think he is fooling anybody by calling Alice his assistant?), the second builds a picture of life as a dual national, the eventual need to pick a side, and the consequences. VERDICT Full of choices and of opposites--young/old, seasoned/novice, American/Iraqi--this thought-provoking book is evocative of the world we live in today. Highly recommended for readers of literary fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 8/21/17.]--Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Asymmetry
A Novel
Lisa Halliday
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